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Taylor Swift’s Letter to John Mayer

Taylor Swift’s Speak Now new record releases tomorrow. It’s expected to be the biggest release this year. Some say it might sell Platinum (1 million) in its first week. If anybody can do it, Taylor probably can.

I’ve heard most of the record and I must say it’s pretty amazing. At times, I have a hard time believing that Taylor is only 19 or 20. She writes like a 45-year-old. Well, mostly…but it’s good. Really good. (And I’ve never been much of a fan…)

By now you’ve either heard or heard about the song “Dear John,” a tune that Taylor is believed to have written about a relationship? friendship? fling? with John Mayer. (Remember: Taylor sang harmony on one of the songs on John’s last record.)

Here are the lyrics…

Long were the nights
When the days once revolved around you
Counting my footsteps,
Prayin’ the floor won’t fall through, again
My mother accused me of losing my mind
But I swore I was fine

You paint me a blue sky and go back
And turn it to rain
And I lived in your chess game
But you changed the rules every day
Wonderin which version of you
I might get on the phone, tonight,
Well I stopped pickin’ up
And this song is to let you know why

Dear John,
I see it all now that you’re gone.
Don’t you think I was too young
To be messed with
The girl in the dress
Cried the whole way home
I shoulda known.

Well maybe it’s me
And my blind optimism to blame
Maybe its you and your sick need
To give love then take it away
And you’ll add my name
To your long list of traitors
Who don’t understand
And I’ll look back in regret
How I ignored when they said
Run as fast as you can

Dear John,
I see all it now that you’re gone
Don’t you think I was too young
To be messed with
The girl in the dress
Cried the whole way home

Dear John,
I see it all now it was wrong
Don’t you think nineteen’s too young
To be played by your dark twisted games
When I loved you so
I shoulda known

You are an expert at sorry
And keeping lines blurry
And never impressed by me
Acing your tests
All the girls that you run dry
Have tired lifeless eyes
Cuz you burned them out
But I took your matches
Before fire could catch me
So don’t look now
I’m shining like fireworks
Over your sad empty town

Oh woah oh

Dear John,
I see all it now that you’re gone
Don’t you think I was too young
To be messed with the girl in the dress
Cried the whole way home
I see all it now that you’re gone
Don’t you think I was too young
To be messed with
The girl in the dress
Wrote you a song
You should’ve known
You shoulda known
Don’t you think I was too young
You shoulda known.

Either way, it’s a good song. It’s an amazing song in some ways: Honest, melodic, a bit gritty…

So let’s assume the song is about John Mayer.

Is Taylor’s upfront, in-your-face honesty a good thing?

Does the fact that John Mayer is a celebrity make a difference? Is sometimes “honesty” better with a little ambiguity?

If the song, in fact, is about John Mayer, can it transcend the same way a song about a nameless jerk of a boyfriend might relate to Taylor’s audience?

Again, I like the song. I admire Taylor’s guts to put it out there. But honesty can backfire sometimes. Sometimes honesty can be seen as bitterness or gimmicky or even dishonest.

What do you think?



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singingnewyorker

posted October 25, 2010 at 9:33 am


Miss Swift bitter? Nah. Gimmicky? It’s showbusiness,it’s all gimmick. Dishonest honesty? Just glad only God know our hearts. Aren’t you?



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Superstarseven

posted October 25, 2010 at 9:37 am


Dang John, did you really have to go dating a teenager in your early 30′s? Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.



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Jeff

posted October 25, 2010 at 9:42 am


I’ve never listened to her. She wrote that? Wow. What talent for being so young. The story behind it will certainly help sell it.



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Michael

posted October 25, 2010 at 9:47 am


It’s funny to me how many of these kinds of songs are nothing more than self-indulgent hypocrisies. The entire song, to me, is explaining how she didn’t like the relationship and how “John” took advantage and how she was a fool for going along with it. It’s a song about a mistake and the accompanying guilt.
Then, in the end, she says

“But I took your matches
Before fire could catch me
So don’t look now
I’m shining like fireworks
Over your sad empty town”

Wait…that doesn’t make sense. Did you end up being hurt from all this or didn’t you?
How can you sing an entire song about loss, heartbreak, and regret, just to end it with such a sense of self-worth?
It’s as nonsensical as writing a song called “Indescribable” containing over 200 insubstantial words and empty attempts to do just that…describe something.



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    Brookie

    posted October 25, 2010 at 10:41 am


    “How can you sing an entire song about loss, heartbreak, and regret, just to end it with such a sense of self-worth?”

    Because Taylor, in her young age, realizes that there is hope for love after heartbreak.



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      Shelby

      posted October 25, 2010 at 3:09 pm


      amen.
      you can be heartbroken and come out shining and hopeful in the end.



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    JD

    posted October 25, 2010 at 2:49 pm


    For the most part, I’m not a huge fan of worship music as it exists in American churches at the moment, but I actually give credit to a song that points out that God is Indescribable and then tries. What else are we supposed to do? And I don’t believe the words are “insubstantial,” in the negative sense that you’re articulating, more that they are bottomlessly true yet still insufficient. To me, that paints a pretty wonderful picture of the infinitude of God – one that I submit neither a song of allegedly “insubstantial words” nor a song that just said “God is indescribable” and then ended 8 seconds later would have. But I digress.

    The song is more honest than the average pop song (or worship song for that matter), and while it does contain a scathing rebuke to “John,” it also contains an embarrassing admission of youthful naivety that Swift is owning which I believe is the most compelling part of the song. No one who is young wants to cop to acting young or making stereotypically young mistakes, and yet everyone who has ever been young has made them. To put your name to that in a pop song might not be automatically qualify as high art, but it’s certainly more beautiful and worthwhile than the average pop song.



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jay sauser

posted October 25, 2010 at 9:50 am


heart breaking honesty there in that song



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MainlineMom

posted October 25, 2010 at 9:51 am


Knowing what I know of John Mayer, from some secondhand (not published) info, this sounds exactly like him. I didn’t know she had any relationship with him, but if so, this song hits the nail on the head. And yes, it totally transcends…I can see LOTS of girls/women identifying wholly with these lyrics. She’s an artist, nothing wrong with honesty. Heck, maybe it’s about a different guy altogether.



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Adam Whitley

posted October 25, 2010 at 9:57 am


I always want to like Taylor Swift more than I do. This song just strikes me as plodding, overwrought and sappy. It might be because I feel that way about most modern country music.

It’s definitely about John Mayer, though. I’m a huge Mayer fan and some points she hits on are far too close to be coincidence. The problem is the way she describes the whole situation seems like she could have just read WAY too much into their relationship.

Taylor Swift just bothers me for some reason.

//AW



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    Mike

    posted October 25, 2010 at 9:00 pm


    Because you like music perhaps?

    But seriously, this ain’t the first high profile guy Taylor’s dissed in one of her songs. Just ask Joe Jonas, Taylor Lautner, or even her thorn in the flesh Kanye West.

    Frankly, if I was even in the circle she was dating in, I wouldn’t touch her with a 12-foot pole. Breakups are hard enough without some chick singing about your dirty laundry to the whole world.



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Carole Turner

posted October 25, 2010 at 9:57 am


I like it! I dig honesty. I think we need the straight forward songs like this one and the kind that are hidden but always guessed about, songs like Your So Vain, that is one of the best.



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ThatGuyKC

posted October 25, 2010 at 10:01 am


I think Taylor Swift is an extremely talented song writer, but her live performances are terrible.

However, I do think it’s gutsy to call out people on an album. Whether or not “Dear John” is actually written to Mayer is merely speculation until confirmed by Swift explicitly.

I enjoyed Mayer’s Crossroad’s episode with Keith Urban and especially the interview portion where Mayer talked about needing somebody in his life to hold him accountable and not let him be the selfish jerk (I think) we’re all inclined to be.



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Noelle

posted October 25, 2010 at 10:31 am


Many artists wear their bleeding hearts all open like this. Is it only the young ones? I remember young heartbreak. She captures it well. Anyone dating Taylor should know by now he’s gonna end up in a song if he doesn’t behave. She’s quite talented. I wish her a long career.



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Brookie

posted October 25, 2010 at 10:46 am


I have been a fan of Taylor’s work since she released her first album. As she comes out with each new album, her writing matures more and more. I loved each transformation and look forward to future albums! I know that she’ll mature even more as a singer and songwriter- I honestly can’t wait.

Great job, Taylor!



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Dan

posted October 25, 2010 at 11:04 am


I have never liked Taylor Swift. I don’t think her music is good. This song seems like a vague attempt at writing about loss & difficulty when really it’s just a girl right out of her teens writing sappy lyrics that r overly obvious. She’s being too whiny. I understand she is good & I understand she sells lots of albums. But I don’t think her songwriting is “unreal”. I prefer John’s “WHO SAYS?”. Taylor shouldn’t listened 2 those lyrics. “I don’t remember u looking any better,then again… I don’t remember u.”



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Dan

posted October 25, 2010 at 11:08 am


I meant Taylor SHOULD HAVE listened 2 those lyrics-
“I don’t remember u looking any better, then again…I don’t remember u.”

“WHO SAYS”
from Battle Studies



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Charlie's Church of Christ

posted October 25, 2010 at 1:01 pm


I wouldn’t give her much credit for putting the song out there, I’m sure the record label was begging for it and the hype it’d get. I’d bet it was all very calculated.



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Jenn

posted October 25, 2010 at 1:06 pm


Whether it is about John Mayer or it’s too honest or questionably gimmicky, it is unfortunately very relevant, because he isn’t the only man like that out there and whether you are 19 or almost 30, these men have a way of making you believe you know what you are doing and in the end like Taylor says “And I’ll look back in regret, How I ignored when they said
Run as fast as you can.”

So while I pass on my hard learned wisdom in more discrete ways, as with her other songs Taylor seems to believe that there is no point in being quiet about issues that almost every young woman will confront. If she can be at peace with herself about it, then go for it.



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Kim S

posted October 25, 2010 at 5:22 pm


You ask an interesting question about honesty, that I can’t help but fixate on. How much honesty is the right amount? I know I’ve been “punched in the gut” with truth with someone behind it saying, “I’m just being honest.” Truth/Honesty without Grace is never okay.

In this case, I know this is nothing more than a simple pop song about a girl finding her strength in overcoming heartache. I can’t fault her for that…a lot of people relate, thus, a lot of people will buy her album.

Even so, in her honesty she also seeks a little revenge, which is never the right answer. Ultimately, her honesty was probably a bit too much for my taste…in general, her writing is mostly like this too. A bit too revealing.

Proverbs 10:19 reminds me (and trust me, I need to be regularly reminded) that the more talk there is, the less truth there will be…the wisest among us watch our words closely. Heck, and I’m long winded, so this is as tough for me as it is for Taylor, apparently!



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Dianna

posted October 25, 2010 at 11:03 pm


Well maybe it’s me
And my blind optimism to blame
Maybe its you and your sick need
To give love then take it away
And you’ll add my name
To your long list of traitors
Who don’t understand
And I’ll look back in regret
How I ignored when they said
Run as fast as you can.

WAIT. WAIT A MINUTE. This makes no sense. WHO is the traitor in this section? “You’ll add my name” sounds like notches on a bedpost, but then it follows “to your long list of traitors.” Sooooo….is the girl the one who betrayed the guy here? If so, then what the heck is this song about? There’s no real way that “traitors” makes sense here except as a contradiction to the rest of the song.

Same thing with the fireworks line: “I didn’t catch fire” but now “I’m a firework exploding.” WHICH IS IT?

Sloppy writing is sloppy.

Disclaimer: To quote another musician: “Hate is a strong word, but I really really really don’t like [Taylor Swift].” She perpetuates the madonna/whore dichotomy feminists have been working for years to overcome – this idea that there are only two types of women: the angel and the witch. Either you’re a saint or you’re a slut, and there is no in between, which is what Taylor tends to write – all the girls in her song are sluts, and she comes across as the pure angel. So instead of doing what feminists have been trying to do for years and make others realize that we are real people who quite frequently make distinct, informed, and rational decisions about our relationships and our sexuality, she shames those who made those decisions and paints herself as the pure angel who would never ever touch a boy. Urgh.



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    Jenn

    posted October 26, 2010 at 10:03 am


    I believe the lines:
    “And you’ll add my name
    To your long list of traitors
    Who don’t understand
    And I’ll look back in regret
    How I ignored when they said
    Run as fast as you can.”

    The traitor is Taylor in the eyes of the man in question – if John (Mayer) is like all the man-children I’ve had the misfortune to love and be burned by, they (man-children) blame the women who love them for not understanding them. In this case John is good a the spin, it’s Taylor’s fault she didn’t get him, she’s just one of the “haters,” rather than just hanging around for him to use when he needs a warm body.

    As for the firework lines:

    …”Cuz you burned them out
    But I took your matches
    Before fire could catch me
    So don’t look now
    I’m shining like fireworks
    Over your sad empty town”

    As above there are the girls who are willing to be that warm body in the hopes that one day they will change them, if they just do ___ or hold on, but she realized that all John would do is consume her – instead she has moved on and will be better for this – whether personally or success wise.

    As for the “dichotomy feminists have been working for years to overcome,” that might be the case but she is by no means the ring leader or is she even claiming to be a feminist. I think we (feminists) have got bigger issues than Taylor’s pop songs. And to be honest in the world of teen demographic music she is probably one of the more positive options – she is transparent (maybe too much), positive and has a consistent message of self worth for who you are rather than what you can do for the boy on the football team. Is it deep? Is it ground breaking? Not really but in a world of Miley’s she is saying something positive.



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Scot Kraemer

posted October 26, 2010 at 10:05 am


We need more honesty and raw emotion in songs. I am sick of the shallow crap that has been on. (Bitter mood at life today as you can tell)



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Jennifer

posted October 26, 2010 at 12:33 pm


I can’t stand Taylor’s music. I’ve never liked it…but that probably has something to do with the fact that I’m in my 30s and don’t relate anymore to teenage drama, which is all she seems to write about. Plus, she can’t sing live to save her life.

Also, I’m a huge Mayer fan. The guy’s songwriting & guitar playing is simply unparalleled. Whenever he comes out with something new, it’s like he’s been picking my brain. However, I do realize he’s a giant douche. It’s not a secret. And if this whole relationship is true, Taylor simply comes off, to me, as a nothing but a stupid, little naive child who shouldn’t have been messing around with a guy with that reputation over 10 years her senior anyway.

The whole thing with naming names after writing & releasing songs is just horribly immature. I mean, I’m all for expressing your feelings in order to deal with things, but keep your mouth shut. I mean, what guy is going to want to touch her with a 10 foot pole now if she’s just going to turn around an write a song about it for the whole world to hear?



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Carole Turner

posted October 26, 2010 at 3:41 pm


Thanks for posting this, I keep listening to it, might buy the CD now. The sound even sounds like John Mayer. My daughter keeps saying “oh my gosh! She even says his name in it!”



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Kristen

posted October 26, 2010 at 8:19 pm


What Taylor lacks in vocal strength, she makes up for in her writing ability. I love what she writes. And I love the honesty. It’s refreshing to me.



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Jessica

posted October 27, 2010 at 11:42 am


I find it funny that everyone assumes John is John Mayer. Historically we’ve used the name John for a fill-in when we don’t know someone’s name. There is also the term “dear john” letters that women used to write to men serving overseas to break up with them. Why can’t she just be imitating that phrase? When I heard of the song I did think it was just a spin off of a dear john letter basically telling a guy why she can’t be with him anymore. I think people want to see controversy so much nowadays they create it themselves. My first boyfriend fit that song perfectly and I too am glad I got away when I did. Society cracks me up!



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    Kevin Reitz

    posted October 27, 2010 at 3:59 pm


    I think where people are drawing the assumption is the reference to her age (being too young). It certainly sounds like it was an older guy… but sure, it could be somebody else.



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Kevin Reitz

posted October 27, 2010 at 3:57 pm


If this song is about John Mayer, a few things:

1. John Mayer’s reputation is well documented and it should come as no surprise that this would happen.

2. John Mayer’s reputation is well documented and Taylor, prior to falling head over heels for him (which it certainly sounds like she did), should have known better.

3. It’s extremely mature of Taylor to take it as a learning experience and write a (what’s sure to be) Grammy nominated song about.

4. We should all count ourselves as fortunate that #3 is true so that we can enjoy what really is a great song (and I have NEVER been a Taylor Swift fan… as was stated above I have always found her music too commercial for my tastes), and really does seem to be a very honest tune.



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